of Optina monastery), and a current of thought among the episcopate that favoured greater independence from the state all serve to refute a widely held view among critics of Russian Orthodoxy that the church was little more than the handmaiden of the state.7
Another important factor that helped the church to maintain at least a semblance of independence from the state in the eighteenth century was an educational system for training future clergy. Introduced during the reign of Peter the Great, the number of seminaries and seminarians saw remarkable growth in the last half of the eighteenth century. In i8i4, a four-tiered structure of clerical education culminating in the spiritual academy was established that served as the model for the rest of the century. At the bottom came the religious primary schools that attracted young men who aimed no higher than the office of psalmist. Those with strong enough talents and desires continued on to the seminary. Most of these young men were ordained either as deacons or as priests. A select few graduated to one of the four theological seminaries in the empire (St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Kazan) and thus were assured prominent appointments as bishops. Although the religious schools were plagued by harsh conditions, brutal discipline and ill-trained instructors, clerical education had become by the i860s a sine qua non for a parish assignment. The Great Reforms, which benefited the rest of Russian society indirectly, had the direct result of initiating a sweeping reform of church schools in i867 and i869. Its aim was to improve curricular and living experiences and to attract to religious service young men from outside the clerical estate. Much attention has been given to the failure of these reforms, the most obvious example being the student uprisings beginning in the i880s, which rendered the seminary synonymous with revolutionary activism. More to the point, the cohorts of clergy trained in post-emancipation religious schools were likely to be more sensitive to the material needs of parishioners and to their demands for parish reform, a fact that often put them at odds with tsarist officials. Furthermore, the high sense of duty, which inspired this large cadre of parish clergymen, emerges from the extremely high quality of the diocesan clerical
7 See G. L. Freeze,'Handmaiden of the state? The Orthodox church in imperial Russia reconsidered', JEcclH 86 (1985), 82-102. On popular devotion to spiritual leaders as well as their appeal to cultural elites, see R. L. Nichols, 'The Orthodox elders (startsy) of imperial Russia', Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 1 (1985), 1-30; L. J. Stanton, The Optina Pustin monastery in the Russian literary imagination: iconic vision in works by Dostoevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy and others [Middlebury Studies in Russian Language and Literature 3] (New York: Peter Lang, 1995); Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, 1782-1867: perspectives on the man, his works, and his times, ed. V Tsurikov (Jordanville, NY: Variable Press, 2003).
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